Pudgy pies. Campfire pies. Mountain pies. Hobo pies. Whatever you happen to call them, the pie iron is one of the best damn inventions on the planet, as far as I’m concerned.
Pie irons were popular in the ’60s and ’70s and were known as tonka toasters. Generally, they were used with (presumably) white bread and pie filling, but recipes have evolved to include pizza fillings, eggs, lunch meats, and basically anything else you can dream up.
I’ve been using them as long as I can remember. I did a lot of camping when I was a kid and I scarfed through a hot dog as fast as I could so that I could have a pudgy pie with blackberry filling and some powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Honestly, pudgy pies were probably what drove me to love camping so much.
Now that we’re full-grown adults, my husband and I sometimes start a campfire in the backyard and cook up some pies just for the fun of it. The kids love it and it makes it feel like we’re camping, even if we’re just in the yard.
There are a few things to consider with pie irons. Here are the basics.
1. Style And Size
I’ve owned a few types of these – some are round, others square. The round ones tend to make a lot of waste, but they cut the crust off so if that’s what you like, then these are probably a great way to go. I also feel like these give off more of a “retro” feel – it seems like a lot of the vintage ones on eBay are circular.
If you’re like me, you don’t want to waste anything, so they also make square ones.
And if you want to be more efficient, they also make a double pie iron. This thing looks pretty unwieldy and I actually prefer the single size because it’s too easy to burn your pie if you’re not being 100% attentive, and since I have kids and a dog, I can’t always be watching my food cook as intently as I’d like to be.
I’ve recently become a bit obsessed with cookbooks. When Justin and I lived on a boat, the only cookbook I ever wanted/felt like I needed was my trusty Joy Of Cooking book. Anything else I could find online. There was just one problem – our Internet connection was unreliable, and so I often just made stuff up as I went along. It worked out fine, but once we moved back to shore (and got a reliable internet connection), I started collecting cookbooks a bit more. Recently I was gifted Budget Bytes, which is a frugal cooking cookbook. I’ve been following Beth Moncel’s site for many years, but I love having a hard copy of her book around.
Anyway, I’m getting off-track. If you’re new to cooking with pie irons, you may be interested in an actual cookbook to have on board, since your internet connection may be unreliable or your power source may be limited. I personally haven’t used any of these books, but Amazon has a great list and most of the cookbooks have overall ratings of 4-5 stars. I read through dozens of the reviews and if I had to choose, I’d definitely go with Pie Iron Creations and Pudgie Revolution.
You can also head on over to my Pinterest board, Airstream Recipes, where I have a collection of some of my favorite camping recipes, many of which are for pie irons.
3. Set Up
When I use pie irons, I spray the insides with cooking spray before using them, but I recently discovered that you can also cover the inside with tinfoil before you begin. This seems pretty brilliant and would make clean-up a lot easier. Also, butter the outsides of your bread before you add fillings!
You’ll want a good bed of hot coals to set your pie iron on. You don’t want to have to stand around holding the thing over a flame the entire time, and the coals will cook your food a lot more evenly.
4. And Then You Wait
This step is the hardest part. How long you wait depends on how hot your coals are and how dark you like your bread. You’ll want to flip the pie halfway through cooking to get both sides even. Since the cast iron holds heat so well, you don’t have to worry about checking on your food fairly often to make sure you’re not overcooking.
What are your favorite fillings for pie irons? Leave us a message to let us know!
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